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When Can You Sue for PTSD for Auto Accident Injuries?

What is PTSD?

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is exactly what it sounds like — a disorder that manifests itself as stress and anxiety (at the very least) after a traumatic event. The term itself is somewhat recent (1980) in the scheme of things, but the concept has been around as long as there has been trauma.

For example, in the Epic of Gilgamesh (2100 B.C.), the main character suffers from intrusive nightmares and uncontrollable anxiety after witnessing his friend’s violent death. Later in history, soldiers returning from battle as only ghosts of their former selves were labeled as suffering from what we call PTSD but under many different names: soldier’s heart, nostalgia, combat fatigue, shell shock, war neurosis, and combat stress reaction.

Simply put, PTSD is a psychological response that is acknowledged to be a psychiatric disorder triggered by witnessing or being involved in a terrible event, such as a natural disaster, terrorist act, or car accident.

Not everyone who is involved in an accident goes on to develop PTSD. However, according to the National Institutes of Health, 39.2% of adult survivors and 6% – 25% of children and adolescent survivors of this country’s annual 6 million vehicle accidents do go on to develop it.

How is PTSD diagnosed after an accident?

Physical injuries are usually relatively easy to diagnose, and they are also easy to prove with tests, scans, and x-rays.

Unfortunately, PTSD is not so obvious to those who are not suffering from it, which is why an experienced personal injury lawyer is needed to negotiate with insurance companies or represent you in a lawsuit.

The most common symptoms of PTSD are:

Intrusive memories (re-experiencing):

  • People often experience flashbacks of the accident as well as recurring nightmares about what happened.
  • Certain events may trigger anxiety or even panic attacks.

Unwillingness to discuss the accident (avoidance):

  • People often try to avoid anything that reminds them of the accident, including passing by the location.
  • In extreme cases, some people find themselves unable to make themselves drive or even ride in a car.

Depression and mood changes (arousal and reactivity symptoms):

  • PTSD can cause numbness or apathy as well as extreme depression and mood swings.
  • This can cause memory issues and also affect personal relationships with others.

Changes in behavior (physical, mood, and cognitive reactions):

  • PTSD sufferers can start exhibiting self-destructive behaviors like drinking too much or taking drugs (substance abuse) to numb the emotional pain.
  • They may feel as if they are always braced in a kind of fight or flight limbo.

In order to be formally diagnosed with PTSD, a patient has to experience all of these symptoms in a month:

  • At least one re-experiencing symptom
  • At least one avoidance symptom
  • At least two arousal and reactivity symptoms
  • At least two cognition and mood symptoms

With this diagnosis from a qualified doctor, you can sue the at-fault driver. If your case goes to court, you will need the testimony of fact witnesses, such as your doctor or psychiatrist. They will testify about your diagnosis. Your attorney may also bring in other expert witnesses to testify about PTSD in general.

Keep documentation of any of the consequences of your PTSD, including your own notes about memory or relationship problems.

For a jury to decide in your favor, your attorney will have to prove the following:

  1. There was an actual injury. (This is PTSD.)
  2. The injury was caused by the defendant’s negligence. (The driver you are suing must be more than 50% at fault for the accident.)
  3. The injury resulted in financial costs. (This includes doctor and therapist visits, medication, and loss of work.)

Indiana’s Statute of Limitations:

Under Indiana Code section 34-11-2-4, you have two years from the date of your car accident to file a personal injury lawsuit against an at-fault driver. This is difficult for PTSD sufferers because sometimes symptoms occur months or even years after the accident itself. Consult with an attorney as soon as possible.

The effects of PTSD are serious and often debilitating. When you are injured, either physically or emotionally, in a serious accident, your main focus needs to be on recovery. Let Crossen Law Firm handle the fight for compensation. With over 20 years of experience and millions of dollars awarded in compensation to our clients, our Indianapolis personal injury lawyer understands how to best help you obtain a favorable outcome for your situation. Get started on your case today by scheduling a free consultation about your situation.

Call 317-401-8626 or Contact Us online.